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Cubase has been around for a while now. I remember using its ancestor, the Pro 24 software on my Atari ST in 1987 to create musical arrangements for composition assignments during my university training years. Since then, many things have changed, and Cubase has made the transition from a MIDI sequencer to a Virtual Studio Technology (VST) software. This updated version of Cubase SX and SL grows on the knowledge that Steinberg has acquired from years of user comments like yours and the stable audio engine it developed for its Nuendo application. It also reintroduced some features previous VST users loved, but that had been removed in the first SX/SL version, like Warp tool, which is similar to the Cuepoints/Hitpoints in the Mastertrack of VST 5.1. If you are new to Cubase, you can expect this software to help you through your entire musical creation process. If you are a veteran Cubase user, you will find many of the things you loved and a few new features that are worth the upgrade. The Freeze function, which allows you to render VST instrument tracks temporarily to save CPU power, is definitely one of those features that make it worth upgrading. Hopefully, in both cases, this book will help you to get the most out of this great tool.

Like any software, as it allows you to do more things and do them in a more intuitive way, the learning curve becomes more and more abrupt. You will find very extensive documentation on all available features found in Cubase on the CD-ROM provided with the software (or installed in the Documentation folder in the Cubase program folder), but you will have to sift through over 1400 pages of electronic format documentation. For most users, this might seem like an overwhelming task. This book will provide you with the most important features, as well as some lesser-known features, in step-by-step examples that include online tutorial files to practice what you have learned in many of the chapters.

Beyond describing the features of the program and how they work, I address the “why” to use certain features and “when” they can become useful to you. All of the Cubase SL features are included in Cubase SX, so for those of you who have this version of the software, the book should address your questions as well. Since Cubase is also available in both Macintosh and PC versions in quite similar environments, it doesn’t really matter which platform you are using—the way to use the features and functions will be the same.

I offer you my 15 years of experience working with the software, as well as my insight into some tips and tricks that have been very useful in getting the job done throughout these years. As a professor and program coordinator in sound design vocational schools in Canada, I have answered questions from many students who have wanted to work with this tool to create music. I have drawn from their most frequently asked question list and answered them in a way that I hope you will find enlightening.


About Online Exercises

At the end of Chapters 4 through 13 and Chapter 16, you will find a section called “Now You Try It.” These sections refer to online exercises that you will find at the following address:

At this address, you will find a link for Cubase Exercises. Follow this link and then read the instructions from there. These exercises will give you a chance to practice what you have learned during the chapter. Most of the steps needed to perform the tasks in the exercises are described in this book, so you may want to keep your book close by if you are not familiar with these procedures at the beginning. Each chapter available contains a series of steps that you can follow while online or that you can print to work offline. Along with these steps, you will find a content file to download. This content file contains a saved Cubase Project and, in some cases, media content required for the exercises. It is therefore important that you download the files first, save them on your hard drive, and load them up in Cubase before you start working on the exercises themselves. You may also download all the content files needed for all the exercises at once. You will find a link to this file on the same site.

You will need to use a file decompression utility to access the content found inside some of the downloadable documents; specifically, the content with zip (for PC users) or sit (for Mac users). These files contain not only a Cubase Project file, but also additional content files, such as audio or MIDI files that are used in the exercises. PC users working under XP can use the built-in Zip decompression utility to decompress these files, while OS X users can also use the built-in StuffIt utility. You can also download these applications at one of the following addresses:

Make sure the media files (such as audio files) are located inside an audio folder under your project’s folder. If for some reason Cubase can’t find the audio files, use the Find Missing Files option in the Pool menu to locate these files on your hard disk.

How This Book Is Organized

Let’s take a look at what you will find in these pages through a short description of each chapter. At the end of this book, you will also find six appendices that will surely come in handy once you understood what MIDI is all about.

  • Chapter 1, Introducing Cubase : This chapter contains an overview of MIDI and digital audio to make sure you understand the underlying concepts related to Cubase as a digital audio multitrack recorder and MIDI sequencer.

  • Chapter 2, A Guided Tour of Cubase SX/SL : This chapter shows you most of the panels, windows, and dialog boxes you will encounter in your Cubase projects. We will look at how to access each one of these windows and give a short description of their purpose in Cubase.

  • Chapter 3, Getting Started : Here we will look at how your computer needs to be configured in order to ensure the best possible results when using Cubase.

  • Chapter 4, Navigating the Project Window : Finding your way around a project means that you can get to a part of your project easily, without having to rely on scrollbars all the time. We will look at how you can achieve this through the use of markers and Transport panel functions. You’ll get an overview of the different context menus available in most of the Cubase windows and panels.

  • Chapter 5, Working with Tracks : When working on a project, you will be using the Project window, which is your main workspace. It is important to define each area of this window and understand why, when, and how to use it. We will also discuss the use of VST instruments and external MIDI device configurations so that Cubase can understand which tools you use outside the computer. Once your external devices are configured in Cubase, you will be able to control them directly from Cubase.

  • Chapter 6, Track Classes : Unlike an audio multitrack recorder, Cubase records not only digital audio, but also MIDI events and automation. It does so through several Track classes. Each class of track allows you to perform different tasks. This chapter discusses each one of these Track classes so that you will know when to use them in your project. This chapter will also include information on effects available in each Track class.

  • Chapter 7, MIDI and Audio Recording : This chapter will look at the process of getting content into Cubase: recording MIDI and audio events, as well as the Import feature. We will also look at the quantizing concept.

  • Chapter 8, MIDI Editing Windows : This chapter focuses on the different MIDI editing environments found inside Cubase.

  • Chapter 9, Audio Editing : This is the audio version of Chapter 8, where all the audio editing windows are discussed.

  • Chapter 10, Browsing and Processing Options : In this chapter, we look at a few new editing environments, such as the Project Browser and the Offline Process History panel. We will also explain how and why you should use offline audio processes, rather than adding audio effects that are processed in real time as you play the project.

  • Chapter 11, Project Editing : This chapter offers information on the audio editing principles (nondestructive editing vs. destructive editing) used in Cubase. It also discusses the variety of ways you can zoom in and out of your work by using shortcuts and menu options. Furthermore, the chapter looks at the functions and options found under the MIDI and Edit menus, as well as editing events directly in the Project window. The Project window is where your arrangement takes place.

  • Chapter 12, Mixer and Channel Settings : Once you have recorded and edited audio and MIDI events, the next most important task is to start thinking about mixing them. Here you will find information on how to use the mixer and most importantly, what you can expect the mixer to do for you. This implies a look at the different channel types represented in the mixer, as well as different mixer routings available when using groups and effects.

  • Chapter 13, Working with Automation : Cubase not only offers you a recording and editing environment for your musical projects, but it also allows you to automate a mix. It does so by creating automation subtracks to tracks containing audio or MIDI events. We will look at how to use these automation subtracks and how to create and edit automation to make sure your musical mix sounds as good as you hear it.

  • Chapter 14, Working in Sync : Synchronization today implies many things. Here we will try to define how it relates to Cubase and how you can get Cubase to work in sync with other devices, both inside the computer and outside of it. We will also discuss how to use the VST System Link to get different computers running a compatible application to work together as one big studio system that stays in perfect synchronization without using network connections.

  • Chapter 15, Mixdown and Mastering : Once all is done, you need to print your final mix to a format that you can distribute to people who don’t have Cubase. Getting your music out there is almost as important as making it. With this in mind, this chapter looks at how you can create a mixdown of your project so that it can be mastered, converted, and distributed on a CD or on the Web.

  • Chapter 16, Score Editing : Creating musical scores with MIDI tracks in your project can produce high quality results. We will take a look at how the score functions work inside Cubase and what you need to do to convert your music into printable notes on a piece of paper.

  • Appendix A, The How To Do It Reference Guide : This appendix gives you a quick reference to all the “How To” sections discussed inside the book, organizing them into simple to use and musician-oriented categories so that you can quickly find what you are looking for.

  • Appendix B, Using MIDI Effects : Here you will find a description of the MIDI effects and how they can be used on MIDI tracks for both technical and creative purposes.

  • Appendix C, Logical Editing : For the logical musician that lies inside of you, here is the Logical Editor found in Cubase. This appendix describes how you can use this tool to edit MIDI events in a way that may take much longer in other editing windows.

  • Appendix D, Optimizing Through Customizing : Sometimes, it’s easier when you can configure Cubase to respond the way you want it to. This appendix offers you a few solutions on how you can customize certain parameters so that they do exactly that.

  • Appendix E, Surround Mixing in SX : SX users will come across surround sound capabilities. This appendix describes how you can use these features to create surround sound mixes and output your mixes to a suitable multichannel format.

  • Appendix F, Cubase Resources on the Web : For those of you who would like to find out more on Cubase or have practical questions, you will find additional resources related to Cubase here.

So there you have it. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I think you will.

Keeping the Book’s Content Current

Everyone involved with this book has worked hard to make it complete and accurate. But as we all know, technology changes rapidly, and a small number of errors may have crept in. If you find any errors, have suggestions for future editions, have questions about the book or other topics, or simply would like to find out more about Cubase or audio-related subjects, please visit the support Web site at the following address:

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